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Learning How to Ferment

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SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — Oregon’s summer and fall harvests are worth waiting for; but by learning a few tricks, eating local can be an all year occurrence.

The kitchen at Sprout! is up and running after years of planning.

“Things are going great. We have our first users in the space, Mcgean’s Cookies. They’re making gourmet cookies and selling them at our farmer’s market as well. We have a number of other users on the docket,” said Micah Elconin, Sprout! Program Supervisor.

The commercial kitchen’s stocked with gear.

“Every piece of kitchen equipment you could really ever want,” Elconin said.

This makes it the perfect place for a kind of fermentation demonstration.

“Sauerkraut is a great example of a fermented food. It’s something that appeals to just about everybody, young and old,” said Jennifer Levin, Master Food Preserver.

Levin is a University of Oregon professor by day, but also a master food preserver with the OSU extension service.

“You need the cabbage and you need the salt. That’s it. You need to slice the cabbage as finely as you can. What you do is you get the salt and kind of break up the cabbage shreds so you get the liquid exuding. What you’re doing is you’re breaking down the cells here. Once you do that, then you wanna pack it really firmly into your jar. The salt starts to act on the cabbage and break it down. Then the lactic bacteria starts to form in the cabbage and make it sour. That’s it. It’s really easy,” Levin said.

Most other recipes aren’t that easy, which is why it helps to get some hands-on training through one of the extension service’s classes.

“They are absolutely the best bargain in town. For a price of about $40 or $50, you get instruction, recipes, hands-on training, samples, lunch. You get all kinds of benefits from a very cheap class,” Levin said.

Not to mention taking advantage of the Willamette Valley’s bountiful harvest.

“What’s nice about preservation is if you learn things like how to make sauerkraut or make fermented salsa or make fermented peppers, you can actually eat locally all year round,” Levin said.

Click here for a list of extension service classes.

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